Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Banned Books Challenge (Hosted by Me!)

photo credit: Love Of Books by George Hodan

I have to admit I was hoping to find a Banned Books Reading Challenge hosted somewhere on the blogosphere, but I haven't been able to find a current one. This might end up being a crazy idea, but I've decided to host one myself instead! Since Banned Books Week 2012, I have been trying to make an effort to read more banned and challenged books, particularly classics, but want to make a more organized and formal effort this year leading up to Banned Books Week 2013. If anyone else wants to join in, I would be absolutely thrilled!

DATEThe challenge will run from January 1, 2013 through the first day of Banned Books Week 2013 (still TBD) -- the rest of the week will be used to wrap-up the challenge.

RULES: The only rules are that books read for this challenge must appear on one of the ALA's lists of frequently challenged books -- there are multiple lists split up by author, year, decade, & a separate list for Banned & Challenged Classics, so there should be plenty of options to choose from.

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Write a post, as long or short as you like, about your participation in this challenge and linking to this post. If you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment here instead. I'd love for everyone to review the books they read, but it's not required. Overlap with other challenges is totally OK. Sometime during Banned Books Week 2013 (date TBD) link-up a wrap-up post about how you did with the challenge.

Update: For each book you read for the challenge, you can also link-up your reviews here, so we can read them!

2nd Update: The dates for Banned Books Week 2013 will be September 22-28. The challenge officially ends on the first day of Banned Books Week, but you can finish linking up your reviews and/or wrap-up posts throughout the week.

Here are the levels you can choose from (and if you decide to change at any point, that's totally OK too!):

Making Waves: 5 Challenged Books
Trouble-Maker: 10 Challenged Books
Rebel: 15 Challenged Books
Insurgent: 20 Challenged Books
Leader of a Revolution: 25 Challenged Books

So link up below, grab a button from my sidebar, and get reading!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Yes, Chef

Yes, Chef: A Memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson
Source: free Advance Reader's Copy from a GoodReads' FirstReads giveaway for my honest review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

I'm a great lover of food, cooking, cookbooks, and (almost) all things culinary. I've become very disenchanted with the Food Network and most cooking shows on TV, but that doesn't mean the topic doesn't interest me. After finishing this book, I've decided I'd much rather learn about a chef's journey to success in print form, than on my TV screen and I will definitely be seeking out more chef memoirs in the future.

I have a lot of respect for chefs who have worked their asses off to rise through the ranks of what can be a punishing career with long shifts, a less-than-ideal work schedule, and a high-pressure, high-stress work environment for relatively low pay (unless of course, you reach "celebrity" status.") Chefs deal with a lot of physical strain, not to mention the risk of injury, on a daily basis. On top of all that, if you want to live the dream of having your own restaurant, it's an expensive and risky business.

Despite Chef Samuelsson's success, this book made it quite clear that there are no guarantees in this field of work. It was fascinating to learn how Chef Samuelsson made a name for himself and the long, hard journey it took for him to get to where he is today. On top of all that, Marcus has a unique cultural background and I loved reading about all the different stages of his life, all the places he's lived and worked, and all the adventures and challenges he encountered along the way.

It was also eye-opening to read about the inequities, both between races and genders, in the restaurant business. Call me naive, but I had not realized the world of fine dining was so difficult to break into for women and minorities. I loved reading about how Chef Samuelsson has been trying to change the face of the culinary world and how he's made it a point to give a chance (and a job) to people other establishments and other chefs would never let past the front door. That's not to say it always works out, but it's nice to see a chef of his caliber giving back to the community and trying to make a positive difference.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys memoirs, cooking, has ever considered becoming a chef or owning their own restaurant, or anyone who just enjoys a good story.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Conquered by a Highlander

Disclaimer: This review gets a little steamy, so if that offends you, please don't continue. You have been warned!

Conquered by a Highlander, by Paula Quinn
Source: I received a free copy of this book from GoodReads' FirstReads program for my honest review.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was really torn between 2 and 3 stars for this book, but settled on 2 because it really was just OK. Not terrible or awful, but not good or great either. In fairness, this is not my usual type of book and I'm sure there are many fans of Paula Quinn who would grant this 4 or 5 stars and I totally respect that, it's just really not really for me. I was hoping it would be and entered the FirstReads contest because I adore all things Scottish, am an avid reader of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books, and was looking to try a different author with a similar setting. When all is said and done though, this book cannot hold a candle to Outlander.

I have to admit I nearly put this one down altogether. It took me a long time to really get into the story and the language nearly drove me mad! The dialogue read much like a novel set in the modern day would except with words like "'twas" and "mayhap" here and there. When I got to a sentence that started "Mayhap 'twas..." I nearly threw the book up in frustration. To me, it just felt like such a forced way to try to evoke another time period. The only real comparison I have is the Outlander books, but those are written with heavy Scottish dialogue that managed to feel much more authentic and add to the story instead of detract from it. I'll give credit where credit is due though, and when the Scottish men are talking in this novel, they do use words like "aye" and "lass" and their dialogue flows much better, without being so distracting.

My other main criticism of the book was that we spent a LOT of pages rehashing how Colin is a big tough warrior and he can't believe he's letting a woman and her son get under his skin and soften his heart. You're a Scottish brute with a heart of gold and you're showing a side of you no one has seen before - OK, OK, I get it! I get. Really.

For any fans of steamy romance looking forward to the "good stuff" know that it takes a real long time to get to there. And then WHAM all of a sudden you can't believe things have progressed so quickly. Colin is putting something in all the other men's drinks to knock them out so he can steal away to a cave with his lady Gillian. He proceeds to go down on her and then walks away to the mouth of the cave and jerks off at a distance. At which point, I was left thinking "WTF, did that really just happen?!" I don't know, it just seemed to all happen really slow, then really fast, and then things went just a bit odd. To each his own, I suppose, but I can totally respect that he was trying not to get the poor woman pregnant.[And then WHAM all of a sudden you can't believe things have progressed so quickly. Colin is putting something in all the other men's drinks to knock them out so he can steal away to a cave with his lady Gillian. He proceeds to go down on her and then walks away to the mouth of the cave and jerks off at a distance. At which point, I was left thinking "WTF, did that really just happen?!" I don't know, it just seemed to all happen really slow, then really fast, and then things went just a bit odd. To each his own, I suppose, but I can totally respect that he was trying not to get the poor woman pregnant. (hide spoiler)]

Onto more mundane things, it's also important to note this book is part of a series. I'd heard it's not necessary to read the previous novels first and I definitely would agree that is true. I imagine readers who've been with the series from the beginning would appreciate this later volume more, but I had no problem following the story without having read any of the earlier books.

If you're looking for a quick romantic read, this is certainly not a bad book. If you're already a fan of Paula Quinn, please just ignore me because I'm sure you will like this one as well. But, if you're an Outlander fan and looking for another Scottish book you'll enjoy just as much, I'm afraid you'll likely be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#11): Most Anticipated Books of 2013

There is no way I'm going to be able to keep this week's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and the Bookish, to only ten! Despite my towering piles of To-Read books there are so many new ones I'm looking forward to in the new year, so I'm cheating and sharing them all.

Find out more about each title on GoodReads by clicking on each book cover or title. Keep in mind that publication dates can change, but as of now, these are all slated for release sometime in 2013 (as per GoodReads.) There's nothing I like better than spreading the word about books, so here goes nothing...

Lots of great YA:

Requiem (Delirium, #3)   Sever (The Chemical Garden, #3)   The Essence (The Pledge, #2)

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)   Mystic (Soul Seekers, #3)   Taken (Taken, #1)

The Murmurings   Uses for Boys   Mind Games (Mind Games, #1)

A couple of adult books:

The Blood Gospel   The Winter Witch

A few that don't have covers yet (Adult):

Written in My Own Heart's Blood, by Diana Gabaldon -- the next Outlander book, eeee!

The All Souls Trilogy book #3 (untitled), by Deborah Harkness

The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3), by Justin Cronin

A few that don't have covers yet (YA):

All That Was Lost Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller

Fullriders #1 (untitled), by Simone Elkeles

The Retribution of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin

Horizon (Soul Seekers #4), by Alyson Noel

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday (#10): The Winter Witch

I keep seeing this one pop up all over this place and the description on Goodreads has really sucked me in.

The Winter Witch
The Winter Witch, by Paula Brackson
Expected Publication Date: 1/29/2013

The best part of discovering this upcoming book was realizing Paula Brackston isn't a first-time author and she has another book out that I can read in the meantime! It's called The Witch's Daughter and, despite the similar titles, they are not actually related.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#10): Authors I'm Thankful For

This won't be the first time I've confessed my undying love for a few of my favorite authors. So at the risk of repeating myself to any readers who've actually been around this little corner of the internet for a little while now, I've decided to participate in this week's Top Ten Tuesday sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish. I'm going to keep this one short and sweet :)

Adult Authors
1. J.K. Rowling
2. Diana Gabaldon
3. Kate Morton
4. Sara Gruen
5. Kathryn Stockett

YA Authors
6. J.K. Rowling (yes, J.K. makes both lists)
7. Jenny Downham
8. Lauren Oliver
9. Suzanne Collins
10. Lauren DeStefano

Honorable Mention: Stephenie Meyer -- I wasn't a fan of The Host, but I am a big Twilight fan. I don't care how many people hate on these books, I still like them. A guilty pleasure, if you will.

I am also incredibly grateful to be an educated, literate woman who grew up in a family that placed great importance on reading. I am grateful to have the time and the means to read at leisure and the freedom to read whatever I choose. Not everyone in this world is so lucky. What are you grateful for?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#9): The Essence

I have to admit that I haven't read the first in this series, The Pledge. I bought it a while ago, but I've been holding out for at least one more to get published before I read it. Let's just say, I'm not so patient when it comes to waiting for sequels.

The Essence (The Pledge, #2)
The Essence, by Kimberly Derting
Expected Publication Date: 1/1/2013

I find the premise of this series really fascinating -- a world where the classes are divided by the language they speak -- so I'm hoping to enjoy both the first and second installments. Click on the cover for the full description on Goodreads.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading Banned Books: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Source: Purchased
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

I first heard about this book years ago, but nothing really compelled me to pick it up until a combination of two things happened. First, I learned it was being released as a movie which reminded me just how popular this book is that I'd never read. Second, I saw it on the ALA's list of frequently challenged books. And as a general rule, I feel that if a book has ruffled a few feathers, it's probably worth reading.

I've come across more negative reviews than I really anticipated, but overall I know this book is still loved by many and considered to be somewhat of a modern classic. Having just finished it, I can now understand why. It deals with the very tumultuous period of adolescence and I imagine many young people can relate to Charlie, the main character. He encounters so many real and important issues, both big and small. From suicide to making friends, from  homophobia to figuring out how to act on a first date, and from rape to break-ups. There's a whole lot going on and these few topics really only begin to scratch the surface.

Given this subject matter, I can also see why it’s been challenged, even though I do not believe books such as this one should be censored. Personally, I think adults, particularly parents, should stop squirming away from books that deal with tough subjects and instead acknowledge that the themes in young adult fiction really do reflect the struggles and issues everyday kids face. We should be creating an open dialogue, not sticking our heads in the sand.

One particular subject I think the book explores very well is the often difficult reality of being a gay teenager. We learn early on that Charlie’s friend Patrick is gay and then we witness the secrecy, fear, bullying, and family rejection that all too often affect gay teenagers. The fact that the book discusses homosexuality at all is one of the main reasons it has been challenged, but this is a subject that needs to be discussed. I’d like to think that by getting to “know” a fictional character such as Patrick, more people might be influenced to be more compassionate and accepting of people who are different than themselves. And if that were the result of reading this book, I honestly don’t know what it is any “offended” adults have to fear.

On a bit of a lighter note, I love how the novel is written in the epistolary style, each letter simply addressed "Dear friend." It felt like Charlie was writing directly to me as the reader while at the same time reading almost like a diary. This reminded me of myself as a teenager since I was always scribbling daily observations in my journals (perhaps I too was a bit of a wallflower!). Charlie’s writing is not flawless. In fact, it is even a bit awkward at times, but for readers to believe these are really letters written by a 15-year-old, I think this was necessary. As a result, the writing feels authentic and I think it helped make the characters and the story more authentic as well.

Now, I’m going to end this with one minor quibble. I know Charlie is a sensitive soul and he has his fair share of issues and problems to deal with, but I did find the sheer number of times the poor boy cries in public to be a bit unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, I have zero problem with boys or men crying. I don't think it makes them weak or any less masculine, but at the same time, I think most people (women and girls included) try very hard to rein in their emotions in public. If it said he "felt like crying" or "fought back tears" or I don't know SOMETHING else along those lines once in a while, it might have been a little more believable. But like I said, this is a very minor quibble.

This book might not be for everyone, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. In a relatively short space, this book covered a lot of ground. It tells a story and it does so extremely well. It's not the kind of book where you expect crazy twists and turns, but I was surprised when something quite unexpected did happen near the end. It was honestly kind of a punch in the gut, but the revelation really helped me understand Charlie’s character better. At first, I was thinking “What the hell?!,” but the more I thought about it, the more all the puzzle pieces seemed to fit into place. Are you curious now? Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Reading Banned Books & Reading the Classics

Two things happened last month that have really made me want to shake up my reading routine. First, there was Banned Books Week. Writing about the topic of censorship and taking a closer look at the lists of frequently challenged books, I realized there were far too many I want to read, but haven't yet. I promised myself at the end of that blog post I would read at least 10 more of these titles before next year's Banned Books Week rolls around.

Then, I wrote a list of Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read and realized that many of the books I feel I've been missing out on are classics. Combine that with the fact that dozens of frequently challenged books are classics and it's really made me want to branch out from my usual reading selections. I'll still be reading some of my more usual fiction titles, both adult and YA, but I really want to start mixing things up. So, stay tuned for some reviews that fall into these two categories and some that just might fall into both!

And if anyone else wants to join in and is interested in reading banned books or classics, I'd love to read your reviews -- just leave me a link :)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#8): Gameboard of the Gods

I found out about this upcoming series two weeks ago over on Nightmare on Bookstreet.

Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X, #1)
Gameboard of the Gods
Expected Publication Date: 6/4/2013

You had me at "In a futuristic world nearly destroyed by religious extremists..." This would be my first from Richelle Mead and I'm very much looking forward to it. You can click on the book cover for the full description on Goodreads.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#9): Favorite Covers

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, we got a freebie! I'm doing a mix of favorite covers from both books I've read and books on my to-read list. Now, I know a lot of people take issue with movie adaptation covers, but I actually have a fondness for some of them. This doesn't necessarily mean I even like the movie, but if I like the actors (don't judge) and especially if I learn about a book because it's being made into a movie, I do love a well done movie cover.

Covers from Books I've Read:

Water for Elephants   Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1)   Fallen (Fallen, #1)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)   Something Like Normal

Covers from Books on My To-Read/Pre-Order List:

The Rose Garden   The Lantern   The Taker (The Taker #1)
Rapture (Fallen, #4)   The Winter Witch

P.S. Don't forget to vote today!

Monday, November 5, 2012

I won!

I very rarely win things. I'm the one that usually gets the losing scratch-off tickets in my Christmas stocking and I don't think I've ever won a raffle or anything like that at an event or fundraiser. And I don't even like casinos because the machines just eat my money. When I started winning free books from GoodReads FirstReads program I was over the moon -- it was so exciting to finally win something! I was really diligent about reading and reviewing those books at first, but then the pile overwhelmed me. For the time being at least, I no longer win anything from that program either because my delinquent reviews have put me on the shit-list.

Anyway, I'm telling you all of this to explain how super-excited I was to hear that I won Sandy of Somewhere Only We Know's giveaway to celebrate her blog gaining 100 followers! I won a $10 giftcard to Barnes & Noble, so you know what that means: shopping time! I even had a coupon in my email, so I just had to put an order in right away. Of course I spent more than $10, I had to get free shipping, afterall. I have way too many novels and series in my To-Read pile as it is, so I decided to go for a few new releases that celebrate bookstores and the written word. And I threw in one cookbook -- You see, I'm also a bit of a cookbook addict and work for the website Eat Your Books, so I really couldn't resist! So here's what's on it's way (well, it will be on it's way Nov. 13th since My Bookstore is still a pre-order):

My Ideal Bookshelf
My Ideal Bookshelf,
by Jane Mount & Thessaly La Force

The Books They Gave Me: True Stories of Life, Love, and Lit
The Books They Gave Me, by Jen Adams
My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop
My Bookstore, by Ronald Rice

Cooking Light Slow-Cooker Tonight!: 140 Delicious Weeknight Recipes That Practically Cook Themselves
Slow Cooker Tonight! from Cooking Light
I love Cooking Light's smaller slow cooker cookbook they published in 2006, so I'm hoping for good things from this one! Click on the photos to check these books out on Goodreads (except for the cookbook -- that link goes to Barnes & Noble) and don't forget to check out Sandy's blog, Somewhere Only We Know. Thanks again!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
Source: Purchased
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
View on GoodReads

Seeing so many bad reviews of this book really breaks my heart. Judging from the fact that there are also a great number of reviews praising it and having just finished it myself, I am convinced the (somewhat) widespread dislike comes from misperceptions of what the book is about and what people expected from Ms. Rowling's "next chapter." Let's face it, the book sold so many copies so quickly because of who J.K. Rowling is. And I am certain there are elements in this novel (rape, incest, drug use, self-mutilation, mental illness, domestic violence, criminal behavior, cheating, and the free use of foul language, just to name a few) that won't sit well with some of Rowling’s fans whether or not they resist the temptation to compare it to Harry Potter.

That aside, J.K. Rowling is still, without a doubt, a skilled writer and storyteller. She is still the same person who breathed life into the magical world of Harry Potter, but in The Casual Vacancy, she breathes life into a much uglier, grimier world. This is no fantasy; it’s still fiction, but it’s about real life. There is misery and heartbreak, pettiness and selfishness, unhappiness and desperation. Rowling brings the town and people of Pagford to vivid life, but it's not a pretty picture.

Against the backdrop of a local election to fill the council seat of the deceased Barry Fairbrother, Rowling keenly observes the citizens of a small town and tells their story without any sugar-coating. She shows us that people are often so caught up in their own petty issues and problems that they fail to see the world is so much bigger than their own tiny place in it. She shows us just how horribly human beings can treat each other -- sometimes on purpose and sometimes not. She shines a light on the cruelty of a society divided by class and the mistrust it breeds between people who see each other as “different.”

I must say, I found it a bit ironic to be reading this in the days leading up to the presidential election. The sharp dividing line between "parties" in the book reminds me so much of the state of our own country. There is an inability for people to see things from another’s point of view and there is a stubborn unwillingness to work together.

To move a little bit away from the abstract, I want to briefly talk about Krystal, a character I couldn’t help but love. She lives in poverty and her mother is a drug-addicted prostitute. She is crude and crass and her very presence in one of Pagford's schools is a thorn in the side of many "good citizens" of the town. This girl has many flaws, but with the exception of Barry Fairbrother who has (in this case) the advantage of being dead, the most likeable character in the whole book. The things this girl has lived through are unthinkable. But through it all, she's built up a tough skin and she's been a survivor. She does not make the best decisions, but she tries to take on responsibility for her baby brother whom she loves very much. That’s an awful lot to ask of a 16 year old. I’m not going to tell you what happens, but know that if you're looking for a happy ending, you're reading the wrong book.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#7): Echo

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading an ARC of the first book in the new Soul Seekers series by Alyson Noel, Fated. So, I'm really looking forward to finding out what happens next!

Echo (Soul Seekers, #2)
Expected Publication Date: 11/13/2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#8): Kickass Heroines

There are many more female main characters I love, but they don't all rise quite to the level of kickass (in my opinion), so I'm going to limit this list to just my top five. I'll be interested to see who else pops up on other bloggers' lists!

1. Claire from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander -- A modern woman with modern "notions" about a woman's place in the world, time-travels to the 18th century. She uses her skills as a nurse to be a healer in her new time and is forever coming to the rescue. She's smart, strong-willed, and totally kick-ass.

2. Katniss from The Hunger Games -- This one needs no explanation. Katniss is kick-ass in every sense of the word.

3. Hermione from Harry Potter -- I love smart heroines and Hermione fits that to a T. She uses her brains and her wits to do all sorts of ass-kicking.

4. Vianne from Chocolat -- An independent thinker who challenges a small town's idea of what is right and proper. She doesn't bend to the townspeople's pressure to "fit in." I love her character in both the book and the movie.

5. Nancy Drew -- the original girl sleuth who always saved the day!

I hope everyone in Sandy's path is staying inside and staying safe -- it's crazy out there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#6): My Ideal Bookshelf

From Goodreads: "The books that we choose to keep-let alone read-can say a lot about who we are and how we see ourselves. In THE IDEAL BOOKSHELF, dozens of leading cultural figures share the books that matter to them most-books that define their dreams and ambitions and in many cases helped them find their way in the world. With colorful and endearingly hand-rendered images of book spines by Jane Mount, and first-person commentary from all the contributors, this is a perfect gift for avid readers, writers, and all who have known the influence of a great book."

Expected Publication Date: 11/13/2012
As a long-time reader, the whole premise of My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount & Thessaly La Force fascinates me and I'm sure the book itself will inspire many more additions to my To Read list.

Check out the authors' website to order prints, notecards, or even your own custom piece of book art. The custom pieces are definitely pricey, but would make an amazing wedding or housewarming gift for the avid readers in your life -- I know I want one!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#7): Books to Get in the Halloween Spirit

I have not read ten books that fit this week's theme sponsored by the Broke and the Bookish, so I'm going to get a little creative here. First, a few I have read and can personally recommend:

The Woman in Black (Movie Tie-in Edition): A Ghost Story   Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story   The Hollow

The Thirteenth Tale   Historic Haunted America

1. The Woman in Black, Susan Hill -- A very creepy, well-written ghost story. I think in honor of Halloween I should finally watch the movie -- I really think it would translate fabulously as a horror flick!

2. Wait Til Helen Comes, by Mary Downing Hahn -- I loved this book as a kid. It's been years since I read it, but I remember it being supremely eerie and creepy and I think it would be absolutely perfect for this time of year

3. The Hollow trilogy, by Jessica Verday -- These books are not scary, but I still think the combination of ghosts, graveyards, and a setting in Sleepy Hollow make this a perfect October read.

4. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield -- This was one creepy, gothic read. It's not your typical horror book, but still great for Halloween

5. Historic Haunted America, by Michael Norman & Beth Scott -- I confess I've only read a handful of stories in this collection, but they really are perfect for this time of year. If this is your kind of thing, there are many other "Haunted" books by these same authors, each focusing on a different theme or area.

Rebecca   The Complete Tales and Poems   Dracula in Love
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde   Graveminder

I'm going to finish this off with a few from my To-Read list and ones I've seen around the blogs today that I can't personally recommend from experience, but think would also fit the Halloween theme.

1. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier -- a creepy, gothic classic that I can't believe I haven't read yet and need to read soon!

2. Anything by Edgar Allan Poe -- I don't think this needs any explanation. I've read a few short stories in the past and pretty much everything Poe has written is perfect for Halloween.

3. Dracula in Love, by Karen Essex -- I've seen a lot of recommendations for Bram Stoker's Dracula, but I won't personally recommend it. I read it last year and just did not care for it. If it's a book you're interested in, this is definitely a good time of the year to give it a try, but despite it's status as a classic, I just could not talk myself into liking it. However, I'm really interested to see what this spin-off novel will be like and I feel I have a good foundation by having read the original, even though I didn't like it.

4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson -- Here's another classic that has fallen through the cracks for me that I really should remedy soon.

5. Graveminder, by Melissa Marr -- I was so excited for this creepy looking book to come out, but then it got pushed to the back of the bookshelf somehow. I should bump this higher on the to-read list.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Evolution of Mara Dyer

The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2)The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Source: Won a free Advance Reader's Copy from a publisher contest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I learned that I had won an ARC of this book from the publisher. I dove right into The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer which I had put off because I had heard it ends in one hell of a cliff-hanger and waiting for the publication of follow-up books is not exactly my strong suit. Let's just say I'm not the most patient person when it comes to these things. Which royally sucks, because this book also ends in a crazy cliff-hanger!

Simply put, if you liked the first novel, you most certainly will love this one as well. Mara's story continues to twist and turn, and just like with the first book, I was blindsided by some of the plot developments. I give an author a great deal of credit when she can surprise me, and surprise me Michelle Hodkin most certainly did. The first book left us with a lot of questions and you'll be happy to know that many of those get answered here, but there are plenty of new ones that are raised as well. For better or worse, some of those likely won't get answered until the final book.

I love Noah even more in this book than the first. There's just something so sweet and romantic about him being the only one who believes Mara is telling the truth. Even as a reader, when you start to question whether or not Mara really is just nuts, Noah stands by her. The lengths he goes to trying to protect her just about kill me and you really feel like they are a team -- the two of them against the world. I was also so thrilled to see that Jamie reappears since I really love his character and his friendship with Mara.

I'm only squeaking in this review two days before it's launch date so you don't have long to wait! Order it now or march yourself to the bookstore on Tuesday because this is one fabulous read. With all that is revealed in the final scenes of this book, the only negative I can think of is the excruciating wait for the final book in this trilogy!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#5): Requiem

There are still five more months to wait for the final installment of the Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver.

Requiem (Delirium, #3)
Expected Publication Date: 3/5/2013

Pandemonium ended with such a cliff-hanger, I really cannot wait to find out what happens next...

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#6): Favorite Authors

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke & the Bookish we're supposed to choose our favorite authors from the genre of our choice. I don't have a specific "niche" that I read from all the time, so I'm going to go a bit broad here and split this up between adult fiction authors and young adult fiction authors.

Top Four Adult Fiction Authors

1. Kate Morton - I am addicted to this woman's books. Her latest gets published TODAY. Can't wait for my pre-order to arrive!

2. Sara Gruen - So in love with Water for Elephants and I enjoyed her other three books as well.

3. Diana Gabaldon - I love Jamie and Claire and everything about the fabulous Outlander saga. The books are massive -- just calling this a "series" doesn't really do it justice!

4. Kathryn Stockett - So far The Help is her only published novel, but I will snap up anything else this wonderful writer comes out with in the future.

Top Five Young Adult Fiction Authors

1. J.K. Rowling (I'm only 20 pages in, but I'll soon see if The Casual Vacancy adds Ms. Rowling to my adult list as well!)

2. Jenny Downham - I've talked about this amazing author quite a few times now. LOVE her. I've reviewed both her books Before I Die & You Against Me

3. Suzanne Collins - Hunger Games. That's all.

4. Lauren Oliver - I have the rest of her books on my to-read list, but I've really enjoyed Delirium & Pandemonium

5. Lauren DeStefano - Wither & Fever - so good!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (#4): Sever

Unfortunately, I still have quite a few months left to wait for this one:

Sever (The Chemical Garden, #3)
Expected Publication Date: 4/12/13

The final installment of The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano is calling my name! I loved the first two and I can't wait to see how everything turns out...

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (#5): Books I Can't Believe I've Never Read

I'm still pretty new to Top Ten Tuesdays, hosted by The Broke & the Bookish, so there were lots of great topics to choose from for this week's list! As I've been dipping my toe into the blogging world recently through blog hops and weekly features such as this one, I swear my To-Read list has just been growing exponentially! I've come across so many recommended books that I really can't believe I haven't read yet, so I thought this would be perfect for me. I've chosen mostly classics since they are so foundational for their genres and I really do feel like I've been missing out by not having read them yet. I also added a few contemporary books at the end. This is going to be embarrassing, but here goes nothing!

1. Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen -- This is such a beloved classic that so many speak so highly of. I own it, but have yet to crack it's spine!

2. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer/The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain -- I feel like everyone except for me read one of these two for school!

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- My husband recommended this one to me forever ago, but it just never happened!

4. Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier -- One of the original gothic novels that I really must get around to one of these days.

5. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte -- Another shameful omission!

Pride and Prejudice   The Adventures of Tom Sawyer   100 Years of Solitude
Rebecca   Wuthering Heights

6. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte -- ditto above.

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Really looking forward to the day I finally get to this one.

8. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman -- Haven't seen the movie either!

9. Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- OK I have read a couple of the short stories, but I've been meaning to read one of the full collections and/or the novels, FOREVER.

10. The rest of the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis -- I read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for a college class, but never more than that. I wish I read them as a kid, but I still think this is a must at some point in time.

Jane Eyre   The Great Gatsby   The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
The Adventures and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes   The Chronicles of Narnia

BONUS: A few contemporary books that also deserve a mention (and a read one of these days!)

11. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

12. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman

13. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

14. The Passage, by Justin Cronin

15. A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness

The Book Thief   His Dark Materials Omnibus (His Dark Materials)   Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Passage (The Passage #1)   A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)

This list could probably go on and on, but I think I'll end it here!